Details of the 2011 UK Census are filtering out of the Office for National Statistics. The Guardian is teasing out some of the headliners- here are a selected few;
• The population of England and Wales on 27 March 2011 was 56.1 million. This is a 7% increase (3.7 million) from 2001, and 55% of that is due to immigration.
• The number identifying themselves as Christians is down 13 percentage points. In 2001, 72% (37.3 million) called themselves Christians. In 2011 that had dropped to 59% (33.2 million).
• Interestingly, Christianity is not down everywhere. Newham, Haringey, Brent, Boston and Lambeth have all shown increases in the Christian population.
• The number identifying themselves as having no religion has increased by 10 percentage points from 15% (7.7 million) in 2001 to 25% (14.1 million) last year.
• 13% of residents were born outside the UK (7.5 million). Just over half of these (3.8 million) arrived in the last 10 years.
• The census shows 2 million households in England and Wales where partners or other household members are of different ethnic groups, 47% more than in 2001.
• India, Poland and Pakistan are the top three countries foreign-born people in England and Wales come from.
• The Muslim population was up from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15m from 2001 to 2011. Muslims now make up 5% of the population, compared to 3% in 2001.
So we are seeing a picture of an increasingly ethnically diverse nation, which intermarries more and increasingly sees itself as not needing organised religion.
However we also see a rise in people who view themselves as Muslim, probably through immigration rather than conversion.
The British Humanist Association have already commented on this change;
In spite of a biased question that positively encourages religious responses, to see such an increase in the non-religious and such a decrease in those reporting themselves as Christian is astounding. Of course these figures still exaggerate the number of Christians overall – the number of believing, practising Christians is much lower than this and the number of those leading their lives with no reference to religion much higher.
Religious practice, identity, belonging and belief are all in decline in this country, and non-religious identities are on the rise. It is time that public policy caught up with this mass turning away from religious identities and stopped privileging religious bodies with ever increasing numbers of state-funded religious schools and other faith-based initiatives. They are decreasingly relevant to British life and identity and governments should catch up and accept that fact.
Andrew Copson, quoted in The Guardian.
I have some sympathy with Copson’s comments. The age of Christendom is over.
But the Kingdom of God is near.